Bob Brown made the huge leap of faith that brought Bush Heritage Australia into being in 1990.
Two blocks of forest adjacent to the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area were put up for sale. They were marketed as 'ideal for woodchipping'.
“I was walking high above two beautiful bush blocks that had come up for sale and that logging companies were keen to buy. I thought about what might happen if someone didn’t protect that land. I imagined a scene of grey tree skeletons and burning stumps.
– Bob Brown
Bob used $49,000 awarded to him as recipient of the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize as a down payment on the land, borrowing the rest from friends and the bank.
The campaign to pay off the remaining $200,000 loan was the birth of The Australian Bush Heritage Fund and that land is now our Liffey River and Dry's Bluff Reserves, parts of which are UN World Heritage Listed!
This was indeed a courageous move. No organisation existed that was dedicated to conserving and managing private land. There was no guarantee the funds could be recouped.
Bob talked about the Nature Conservancy in the US and predicted that such a large, national organisation dedicated to securing high-conservation value private land could work in Australia. People wanted to donate where they could see a result in real terms, he declared.
And so it began. Bob’s scribbled IOUs and grand ideas were converted into the Australian Bush Heritage Fund. Those involved on the Board and as staff members in the early years soon discovered he would be a hard taskmaster, forever pushing towards the dream.
Once they knew they could pay off the debt, Bob urged expansion to employ staff, to make a new purchase, then another. The rest is history.
Bush Heritage is one of Bob’s many babies, now grown into a life of its own. His sheer audacity of thought and action brought this organisation into being. Bob was our President until 1996 and a Board Member until 1997.
In March 2011, the then Senator Bob Brown formally presented his Tasmanian property 'Oura Oura' to Bush Heritage Australia.
The 14-hectare parcel of land is not just environmentally significant, but also played an important role in the history of the Australian conservation movement. Over the years the cottage hosted formative meetings of Bush Heritage Australia, The Wilderness Society, the Tasmanian and Australian Greens, and the Franklin River Campaign.
Both the Liffey River and Oura Oura reserves are open for self-guided visitors to explore.